By: Francisco Meza
The animosity between Chinese and Japanese goes all the way back to the Mukden Incident. This September 18, 1931 incident, also labeled Manchurian Incident, was evidently faked by rogue Japanese military personnel. It was merely a pretext for Imperial Japan’s military invasion in 1931 of northeastern China (Manchuria). Within six months, the resourceful Japanese established Manchukuo, its puppet state. Japan’s ruse of war was swiftly exposed to the International community. It resulted in the diplomatic isolation of Japan, as well as, the nation’s exit from the League of Nations in March 1933.
The Second Chinese-Japanese War
The Marco Polo Incident (July 7, 1937) resulted in a full-scale war between the two nations. Japan scored major victories, initially. China fought Japan with generous assistance from Germany, the US, and the Soviet Union until 1941. After Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the war between the Asian giants merged into the greater conflict of WWII. This war, also known as the Pacific War, was the biggest Asian war ever.
This war was the culmination of the decades-long imperialist policy of Japan. Imperial Japan aimed to expand its influence militarily as well as politically to access raw material reserves of neighboring nations. Japan’s policy was essentially aggressive modernized militarism in the Asian-Pacific region. Japanese exploited the region’s labor to fuel its expansionist plans. Consequently, two nations—Japan’s immediate neighbors—suffered immensely. Korea and China suffered terribly in WWII and bore the brunt of Japanese atrocities.
Japan Runs Into Stiff Resistance at Shanghai
Although Japan won the Battle of Shanghai, it was a long battle and the Chinese fought valiantly for three months. The Japanese army wasn’t expecting this level of resistance. And although the Chinese suffered heavy casualties, they destroyed 51 ships and 85 aircraft belonging to the enemy. This was the first of the 22 engagements in the second China-Japan war and the most bloodiest.
Japanese Soldiers Accused of Genocide
From Shanghai, the Japanese advanced to Nanking. The relationship between Japan and China during WWII hit a low point during the Japanese occupation of Nanking in December 1937. Japanese soldiers are alleged to have massacred 300,000 Chinese people—both military and civil—during a 6-week occupation of this city. Although this figure is under scrutiny, there’s no doubt that the Japanese military was guilty of war crimes of a serious nature at Nanking. This 20th Century genocide is better known as the Rape of Nanking.
The Chinese Defeat the Japanese at Changsha and Guangxi
In 1939, the Chinese defeated the Japanese at Changsha (October) and Guangxi (November). By this time, the Chinese army was much stronger than it had been at the beginning of the war. The Chinese launched major offensives that resulted in heavy Japanese casualties. At Changsha, the Chinese inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy that exceeded 40,000. At Guangxi, the Chinese managed to kill over 85 percent of the enemy officers.
The Chinese Fight On With US Aid
The Chinese military resisted the Japanese occupation more fiercely after the US declared war on Japan. From December 1941, the US aid to China increased multi-fold. US pilots airlifted tons of essential material via the dangerous “Hump” route over the Himalayas after the Japanese closed the vital Burma Road.
Japan Launches Operation Ichi-Go
In 1944, from April to October, Japan renewed its attack and launched a massive campaign named “Operation Ichi-Go.” This operation consisted of three different battles in Guangxi, Henan, and Hunan. Although the Japanese conquered Henan and Changsha, they failed to force the Chinese military to surrender.
Atomic Attacks Force Japan to Retreat
Following the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing, Japan surrendered in September 1945. The Allies of WWII had decided at the Cairo Conference (November 1943) to punish the aggression of Imperial Japan by restoring territories the Japanese had annexed during the war. The Japanese were forced to retreat from Formosa, Pescadores, and Manchuria in China. They were also expelled from the Korean Peninsula.
A sense of mistrust existed in the relationship between Japan and China for several years even before the Second World War. The Chinese always felt that the Japanese had brutalized their nation throughout the 1930s. The war started by Japan’s imperialist leaders killed over 20 million Chinese people. Hence, during WWII, there was a total failure of the diplomatic channel and the China-Japan War concluded because of the intervention of the Allies.
The Japanese imperialist designs did not promote good relations with its neighbors, especially China and Korea. Consequently, the two nations were at war even before WWII.